Wrestler Tatiana Suarez Is Unbreakable In New Documentary

Wrestler Tatiana Suarez Is Unbreakable In New Documentary

Former teenage wrestling star Tatiana Suarez is the focal point of a new HBO documentary.

Feb 4, 2024 by Kyle Klingman

Title: The Unbreakable Tatiana Suarez
How To Watch: HBO/Max
Tagline: Every setback is an opportunity

Summary: This documentary explores the career of Tatiana Suarez, a promising wrestler who won a pair of bronze medals at the Senior World Championships as a teenager. Suarez overcame a broken neck and cancer to become a champion in Mixed Martial Arts, and one of the best fighters in the world in the UFC. The film also examines her tough upbringing and the role she continues to play in advancing women’s wrestling. 

Who Is Tatiana Suarez The Wrestler?

Suarez was on track to become one of the best wrestlers in U.S. history. She won a bronze medal at the 2008 Senior World Championships as a 17-year-old and another bronze at the 2010 World Championships as a 19-year-old. Her final wrestling competition was the 2011 World Cup in France. 

The Northview (California) High School star was named ASICS National High School Wrestler of the Year in 2007 and 2008. A significant portion of the film focuses on her time at Northview High School and the influence she’s had on female wrestlers. Suarez reflects on the importance of wrestling and what it was like to compete against boys. 

Suarez trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs under USA Wrestling Women’s National Team coach Terry Steiner.

“She was the first teenage superstar during my time,” Steiner said. “She was young for being on a national team. 

“She was in the perfect sport. She was a fighter. She was gritty, tough, hard-nosed. She had skills but her greatest attribute was her toughness. She was mean on the mat. That’s how she wrestled. Off the mat, her personality was she was really soft. On the mat, she flipped a switch for sure. 

“She had a reputation in southern California for beating up on high school boys. California wasn’t sanctioned at that time so they were wrestling a lot of boys. She made her mark there. 

“Wrestling was everything to her. When she lost, it bothered her. When she got scored on in practice, it bothered her. She competed hard.”

Suarez At The World Championships

2007Junior WorldsSilver1659 kgLost to Song Ni Li (China)
2008Junior WorldsBronze1759 kgLost to Johanna Mattsson (Sweden)
2008Senior WorldsBronze1755 kgLost to Tetyana Lazareva (Ukraine)
2009Senior Worlds5th1855 kg
2010Senior WorldsBronze1955 kgLost to Saori Yoshida (Japan)

Suarez at the World/Olympic Team Trials

2008Olympic Trials3rd1755 kgLost to Sally Roberts in challenge finals; defeated Tina George for 3rd 
2008World Team Trials1st1755 kgDefeated Chelynne Pringle in best-of-three finals (2-0)
2009World Team Trials1st1855 kgDefeated Leigh Jaynes in best-of-three finals (2-1)
2010World Team Trials1st1955 kgDefeated Helen Maroulis in best-of-three finals (2-1)

Is It Tatiana Suarez Or Tatiana Padilla?

The film uses Tatiana Suarez throughout, but you’ll have to search Tatiana Padilla for most of her wrestling archives. She used her stepfather’s surname (Padilla) before switching to Suarez when she entered Mixed Martial Arts.

Is It Worth Watching?

Yes. This film examines the human condition with wrestling as the centerpiece. Suarez overcame unthinkable obstacles to achieve high-level success in wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts. Wrestling fans will learn about a brilliant talent who was forced out due to unforeseen setbacks. 

What Was Left Out?

Suarez competed at three consecutive Senior World Championships (2008-10) and finished third at the 2008 Olympic Trials. The film glosses over some of her wrestling career and only gives her credit for one World bronze medal. 

USA Wrestling’s website does not recognize the World Championships held during the Olympic years, but Suarez won a bronze medal at the 2008 World Championships at the age of 17. The 2008 Worlds were held in Tokyo after the Beijing Olympics.

The film also claims she left wrestling immediately after winning a bronze medal at the World Championships. In reality, Suarez competed at the 2011 World Cup.

“When the injury first happened, her shoulder was twitching,” Steiner said. “That’s when they found there was a tumor or something in there. We had camp in Iowa in December of 2011 before the Olympic Trials in 2012. She came into that camp and she wrestled in practice. She got a stinger or something and it scared her. After that, she kind of just disappeared.”

Her best-of-three series against Helen Maroulis at the 2010 World Team Trials was not mentioned, either. Maroulis was 18 when she faced Suarez, 19, for the 55-kg spot on the World Team. 

Maroulis won the mini-tournament for the right to face Suarez who was sitting in the finals. Suarez (Padilla at the time) lost 1-0, 1-1 in the first match before winning straight matches 0-2,1-0, 2-0, and 3-1,1-0 (this was the bizarre ball draw era where the winner was determined by periods).

Perhaps the film could have made a connection between two teenage stars going in different directions. Maroulis went on to win the 2016 Olympics, becoming the first American to earn a gold medal in women’s freestyle wrestling. 

Maroulis was the subject of a documentary called "Helen: Believe."

What if the two had been in the same weight class for the next decade? Could this have been our best domestic rivalry? Suarez's recent success in the UFC proves she has staying power, and Maroulis is still competing. It's fun to think about what might have been. 

2010 World Team Trials: Suarez vs Maroulis, Match 3